Last winter, I backpacked around Asia with a friend for a month, and it was the most eye-opening trip of my life. We had a wonderful even if not completely trouble-free time, and I love and cherish every memory from it. In one month, we had time to visit Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand.
Among other things, that trip made me realize how easy it is to travel anywhere. I have been warned that things don’t go the same way as in Europe, you will encounter problems daily and everything takes way more time. Despite those warnings, or maybe thanks to them, I found the reality to be quite different. I found it most of the time very easy to get around, and when there was a problem, people were very friendly and helped out, and eventually everything got sorted. Every single time. Because of those warnings, we had thoroughly planned our trips, booked all flights and hotels in advance and checked itineraries before arriving. After travelling for a while, I started thinking that we would not have needed to plan so much ahead because everything works actually very well, and that would have given us more freedom on what to do and room for spontaneity.
What I also realized is that travelling alone is an experience that gives you so much more in a different way that travelling with a friend. At our hostels, we met tons of people most of whom were travelling solo. They were going spontaneously wherever they felt like going, meeting tons of new people, and it made me dream about doing that as well. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, travelling with a friend was a wonderful experience and I would not change that for a solo trip, but I felt the need for something different and exciting in a new way.
Doing things differently or by myself has never been a problem for me, and I had also traveled by myself before, but always to visit a friend abroad. I decided now was the time to go completely my own way, and finally, half a year later, I made my tiny first step towards solo travelling and booked a week’s holiday in Krakow, Poland, by myself, as well as a few days’ convention trip in Stockholm. Now I’m hooked and can’t wait for more.
So what is it that makes solo travelling so special? Isn’t it just lonely, sad and hard to do everything by yourself? No! To me, solo travelling is everything but lonely. It is in fact, what I would classify as the most sociable form of travelling. Why? Because not having friends or family as an easy support and company, you are forced to get out of your comfort zone and get to know new people. And that is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. You will learn so much about different countries, cultures, people and ideas that no museum you visit can give you that much. So if you want to travel and get to know new people from all over the world at the same time, the best thing you can do is jump into cold water and go alone.
The second perk of travelling by yourself is freedom. As you don’t need to make plans and bucket lists match with anyone else, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want and do whatever you want. Amazing. And, more than that, you can change your route to tag along other travelers if you meet people you’d like to be longer with. Or, if you are the meticulous planner type of person, you can make a plan as detailed as you want without anyone nagging about relaxing or taking it easier. You do you and just you. Individualism at its best.
But still, doesn’t it get a little lonely sometimes? Well, that depends on how you see it. Yes, there will most probably moments when you will be by yourself. But is that being lonely? I used to be the person who would always, always be as much as possible with other people because being alone felt like loneliness right away and I started getting anxious. But I learnt to spend time with myself, and boy my over all life quality improved drastically. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. As a solo traveler, you can see the time spent with yourself as a time to recharge and resource for all the extra effort you will need to put in getting to know new people constantly, as well as to get to know yourself and be with yourself. And that in its turn can make a huge impact on your self-esteem, creativity, self-awareness, and so much more. At its best, alone time is time to resource and reflect, create and learn. If you want to see it that way. But be patient, it takes time.
To sum this all up, you should by now be booking your first solo trip if you haven’t already. Go, go, go, explore and see things differently. Don’t think too much, and step out of your comfort zone as much as you feel okay to. Whether that’s a weekend away or a year’s trip around the world, do what feels comfortably outside your comfort zone and learn.